By Silje Solland (Ebert Young Writers Participant)
Over 250,000 people died in the devastating tsunami generated by an earthquake that hit Thailand on Christmas 2004. Somebody had to identify the bodies. AFTER THE WAVE is a collaborative documentary focusing on the stories of survivors, volunteers and the forensics that took upon the task to identify thousands of dead bodies, some left beyond recognition.
I was only 11 years old in 2004, yet I still remember the day when these surreal images reached on our television. People were struggling to hold on, cars and pieces of wood floating everywhere, the water washing away houses. I will never forget the clips of children crying. I did not understand if it was really happening or if I was watching a movie.
The documentary covers the forensics team working day and night to gain control over a situation that nobody had any experience with. Forensics departments from Australia, Germany and America among many others accompanied the Thailand unit which led to many problems, notably how to establish a common agreement of gathering information about the victims and survivors.
The documentary led me to find tears escaping my eyes while watching it. The scene that brought the first tear was an interview with a mother from America talking about losing their daughters. She sat in front of the camera just staring at the interviewer. She took a small breath and started talking about a stewardess approaching them near the hotel where their children were staying.
“Baby sleeping” she said and the stewardess mimicked a wave using her hands. Throughout the interview, the mother kept repeating this sentence before she stopped talking. A silence hit the screen. A silence hits you. Watching a mother reliving her pain. It feels unrealistic and it haunts you.
What took me by surprise was that the documentary shows a part of humanity that we need to see more of in our society. This film displays a human spirit living in everyone no matter where they come from. In disaster, hope speaks up. There is no space for selfish behaviors. Using real footage from survivors that shows the horrors of the workers surrounded by death and sadness makes the documentary unique and speaks to our hearts awakening our inner selflessness and inspires a desire to help people in need. A woman from Sweden in the documentary went to Thailand to search for her children, only to be met by Thai people who had lost everything yet were willing to help her.
In the wake of recent events in Paris, we need to see as a people that we can stand together; we need hope to enhance our human spirit. AFTER THE WAVE captures a chapter in our history which we can never forget.